The Bulls, sitting in the sixth spot for the May 15 NBA draft lottery, have the highest odds of remaining in that position. They could get picks 1 through 3 or picks 6 through 9. The Bulls have a 5.3 percent chance of moving up for the No. 1 selection. The Suns have the best odds at 25 percent and then Memphis at 19.9 percent. When the Bulls beat the odds in 2008 to land No. 1 and Derrick Rose, the Bulls were ninth with a 1.7 percent chance. The Knicks are ninth this year. The Bulls also have a six percent chance to move up for the No. 2 pick and seven percent for pick No. 3. Their odds for picks 1 through 3 are the same as seventh place Sacramento because the teams finished tied.
So here’s a look at how the Bulls have done when picked in the top three in the NBA draft.
The Bulls have taken advantage of the lottery odds twice to get the No. 1 pick in the draft, 2008 for Derrick Rose and in 1999 for Elton Brand.
Both proved to be the best selections at the time with Rose becoming the youngest ever league MVP before major knee surgeries curtailed his career and Brand becoming a two-time All-Star, though with the Clippers, after averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds his two seasons with the Bulls.
Both times the Bulls got the No. 1 pick, they did not have the best chances. In 2008, they were ninth best odds. In 1999 at the end of that 50-game lockout season, the Bulls had the third poorest record behind the Grizzlies and the Clippers. Charlotte that season moved up from the poorest odds to third after barely missing the playoffs. The Clippers fell to fourth. The Grizzlies went to second and the Bulls first, general manager Jerry Krause famously with an enthusiastic double fist pump in the TV drawing.
There were a top four of prospects then all rated somewhat evenly with Brand, Steve Francis, Baron Davis and Lamar Odom. Brand went on to have the most productive career of the four. Michael Beasley was regarded along with Rose as the top two in the 2008 draft. Russell Westbrook was selected fourth, Kevin Love fifth and Brook Lopez 10th in a strong 2008 draft.
The Bulls actually had an influential role in the creation of the original lottery drawing in 1985.
The Bulls were one of the teams in 1984 that appeared to be losing games intentionally—what has come to be known as tanking—for a chance to draft then Akeem Olajuwon, regarded as the next great player in the game. In that 1983-84 season, the Bulls lost 14 of their last 15 games and finished 6-27 after trading their best player, All-Star Reggie Theus, for journeyman Steve Johnson and a second round draft pick. The Houston Rockets, despite having No. 1 pick Ralph Sampson, had an equally memorable close, finishing 9-27. There was a coin flip then between conferences for the top pick in the draft. The Rockets flipped with the Portland Trailblazers. Indiana should have been in that coin flip, but they had previously traded their 1984 pick to Portland for center Tom Owens. He played one season for Indiana. The 76ers had the draft pick of the Clippers, and basically everything broke right for the Bulls. The Clippers were about to end tied with Houston giving the Clippers—Philadelphia with North Carolina’s Billy Cunningham as coach probably was the only team considering Michael Jordan at No. 1—a chance for the coin flip. But Houston lost on the last day of the season and the Clippers upset playoff bound Utah. So it was Houston with the flip against Portland/Indiana. Had Portland with the pick prevailed, they would have selected Olajuwon. Then the Rockets would have selected Jordan to play with Sampson. When Houston won, Portland with Clyde Drexler wanted a big man and took Sam Bowie. So Michael Jordan was the consolation prize for the Bulls.
The draft often has been about luck.
This is what then Bulls general manager Rod Thorn said about Jordan on draft day (it was then done in the morning and not on TV):
"We’ve taken a step in the right direction. Jordan isn’t going to turn this franchise around. I wouldn’t ask him to. I wouldn’t put that kind of pressure on him. He’s a very good offensive player, but not an overpowering offensive player."
Five years prior, the Bulls were part of the coin clip for the best player in the draft, who then was also a basically unanimous choice, Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Thorn called tails. It was heads. So the pick went to the Los Angeles Lakers, who had gotten the rights from the New Orleans Jazz in a previous free agent transaction for Gail Goodrich. Thorn lamented, “Tails had always been lucky for me before.”
There was a sort of another No. 1 pick for the Bulls, which was Artis Gilmore No. 1 in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft after the merger with the NBA. Gilmore went on to finish a Hall of Fame career as a four-time All-Star with the Bulls in six seasons.
The Bulls selected UCLA forward David Greenwood with the second pick in 1979. Bill Cartwright was picked third by the Knicks.
The second pick in the draft has not been kind to the Bulls.
In 1976, it was Indiana U. star Scott May, Midwestern ownership enamored with the big scorer. Scout Jerry Krause at the time was raging for Robert Parish from little Centenary College. Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley went sixth in that draft. Alex English was 23rd. May had an injury plagued seven years in the NBA. In 2002, the Bulls won the No. 2 pick. The Rockets with No. 1 selected Yao Ming. The Bulls took Duke point guard Jay Williams, who had a promising rookie season. But his playing career ended with a motorcycle accident that summer after his first season. In 2006, the Bulls had the No. 2 pick from the Eddy Curry trade with the Knicks. The Bulls swapped the No. 2 to Portland for its No. 4 pick and forward Victor Kryapa. The Bulls selected Tyrus Thomas with No. 4 and the Trailblazers used No. 2 for LaMarcus Aldridge. It wasn’t otherwise a strong draft with the best players from that draft other than Aldridge being Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry, both selected in the 20s.
The Bulls have done somewhat better with the No. 3 pick in the draft.
OK, really good given that they used that pick in 1984 for Michael Jordan.
The Bulls had No. 3 in 2004 and selected Ben Gordon, who went on to be Sixth Man of the Year as a rookie and probably should have also been Rookie of the Year. Though media didn’t seem to want to give him both awards. Gordon had a brilliant five years in Chicago, averaging more than 20 points twice, generally off the bench. He left as a free agent after five seasons. Luol Deng also was selected in that 2004 draft. Deng was at No 7.
The Bulls other No. 3 pick was in 1967 when they selected Clem Haskins. Clem the Gem played three seasons for the Bulls, averaging 20.3 in 1969-70 before being traded to Phoenix. He played nine NBA seasons. Walt Frazier was taken fifth in that draft.